Oh, what did I do?

OK – so I sent a little email to the Superintendent of our local schools. It was just a tiny little concern voiced by a parent who is frustrated with the school system.

See, if you went to my local school district’s website – their logo at the top of their site (as well as on any letterhead, memos, newsletters, etc) states “Communication is a #1 priority”.

I beg to differ.

I can’t get my kids teachers on the phone, much less attempt at any form of decent communication. There are two very small windows of opportunity to get a teacher on the phone. Between 8a.m. and 8:30a.m. and then again between 3p.m. and 3:30p.m – – see, the school stops answering the phone altogether at 3:30 and a parent gets dumped into voicemail. By the time I actually get my kids teachers on the phone regarding, say, a late homework issue – – my kid has already lied to me about homework, the said homework is already seriously overdue and he/she has, by now, gotten an F.

Here’s the email that I sent:

Mr. E**** –

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lisa S**** and I have two children in the West Bend School System – – they are in 8th and 7th grades at B***** Middle School.

I’m always looking for ways to help and assist my kids, and their teachers, to make their school life as successful as possible. I’m convinced that the key to that success is communication and cooperation between parents and teachers. I try to make it as easy as possible for their teachers to contact me whenever possible.

I’ve noticed, through the years, that it is not the easiest to get in contact with the teachers at school. The phone is busy, the teachers aren’t available or I need to call back at a different time during the day. It always seems like a run around.

Most of my questions involve homework that is due, homework that is past due, ect.

Last year, my daughter was in House 6-2 at B*****. Mrs. N*****, and her peers, did an EXCELLENT job at updating the House 6-2 website I could log into that website every single day and know what homework my daughter had due the next day. I could look to see if she had any past due homework that she needed to get caught up on. I could also view class activities, calendars and emails for her various teachers. I was able to avoid late homework, detentions and dropping grades just simply by having that electronic information available for the parents. I’m not sure how many parents utilized that website – – I’m sure if more knew about it, they certainly would!

This was an invaluable tool that I used every single day to help my daughter through sixth grade.

Unfortunately, this year – my son’s House 8-2 and my daughter’s House 7-2, do not seem to update their website at all. I’m going to miss that tool a great deal this year as I struggle through the school’s phone system, leave messages and wait a few days while I play phone tag with the school teachers and administrators – which, sometimes, is already too late and my children’s grades have been affected by something that could have reached a solution a few days earlier.

I would like to suggest a few things, if I may.

Number one – I would like to suggest that all teachers, at all grade levels, require this type of communication. Kids aren’t always honest with us, as parents, regarding their homework, status of their grades and any late homework that they have due. Having this knowledge posted on the website allows parents to help the teachers hold our children accountable for the work they need to complete. Letters home to the parents, from the teachers, does not work – – at least not with my kids, because somehow – those letters never make it home.

Number two – as an owner/operator of a small web design business – – I would be willing to volunteer my time to the school district to show someone how to develop and maintain a very simple web interface that would make it incredibly easy for the teachers to maintain and update their sites on a daily basis. It is a database system called Moveable Type (http://www.moveabletype.org) that I am very familiar and very well versed in – and I would be willing to take the time to train a member of your staff (whoever the person is who maintains the school district’s website) on how to install and set this system up. Once done – it is incredibly easy to work with, and very simple to troubleshoot.

Not sure if this is a suggestion that you will take seriously – however, please feel free to contact me at anytime.

Thank you for your time,

Lisa S****
(contact info here)

Well, they took my suggestion seriously – and I now have an appointment with the School District’s Director of Technology next week, Thursday. He knows about web blogging systems – and told me that he has been very interested to find out how this type of system could possibly benefit the schools. He explained that between his full time job as Dir. of Tech for the schools – and a part time gig as a Professor of Computer Ed at the University in Milwaukee – he hasn’t had the time it takes to look into this and really learn about how it could be implemented as a tool for the teachers to use.

He explained that the issue many of the teachers have with updating their particular web page is knowledge. Some have the knowledge of how to update an .html page – – but many do not. I explained that once a web blog system, like MT, was set up on their servers – and the templates were developed…it would only be a matter of the teachers logging in and making a daily entry for the day in a text window that looks much like an email window (i.e. Title of the entry, pick a category, then type the entry).

I explained, however, that I, too, work a full time job and that while I’m willing and interested in sitting down with him to explain this and how I think it could be implemented throughout the school system – I would not be willing to actually do it myself, for lack of time available. He then asked me if my ‘small web design business’ would accept a possible contract with the school system to at least develop the overall look, templates and design of the pages?

Hmmm, I said – that could be doable.

Boy did I stick my foot in it this time!

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